Here in Italy, 15 August is not only a day of particular honour given to Mary, as the Solemnity of the Assumption, but being a holy day it is also a holiday – or indeed several days’ holiday because with the increase of heat over the month, it is a good opportunity for people to take a break, go to the seaside and have a different pace of life for a few days.
In our current circumstances, it will all be different – churches will not be as full as normal because of the requirements of physical distancing, people might be a little hesitant to go to the beach or to travel too far. We are all having to strike that right balance between prudence and the need to embrace a ‘new normal’, to be out and about, but in a cautious and sensible way. Just as in England, so here in Italy (and in the Vatican) the requirements of good sense dictate that we adhere to all the requirements of these unprecedented times.
As the lockdowns in our respective countries have had full hold on our lives, the cycle of the liturgical year has kept turning – a reminder that it is not centered upon us. We might of necessity have had to press a pause button on what we presume as our ‘normal’ life or ‘regular’ pattern and style of prayer, but the ever-turning circle of the liturgical year celebrates and realises that Paschal Mystery which is all about the constant working of the Trinity: no pause, no lockdown, no distancing. The Father so loves the world that he gave his only Son and the power of the Holy Spirit is the dynamic principle of the life of the Church, yesterday, today and all days.
Mary’s great prayer of thanksgiving and praise , the Magnificat, is prayed each day in the Evening Prayer of the Church. It speaks of the overturning of the ‘normal’ or accepted way of things and the establishment of the Kingdom where God’s mercy will be the touchstone of the ‘new normal’: ‘He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly; He has filled the starving with good things, and sent the rich away empty.’
In the circumstances, not a bad theme upon which to reflect and act.